When I first moved to Chicago a friend asked me to give him feedback on his yoga class. I considered him asking a compliment. I was new to the community and was still realizing that runners stretch in Connecticut was a low lunge in Chicago. I took my friend’s class and was happy to oblige his request. Though, from the get go I realized his teaching was different from anything I had practiced before. In fact, that was true of many of the classes I sampled when I moved here. I was learning a new dialect.

For years I was schooled in a particular way of doing yoga. I was convinced that my practice was the only way, the best way, the absolute holy grail. Had my friend asked me a few years ago to give him feedback on his class I might have leaned his approach up against my model to point out ways it was not measuring up to what I believed was the best technique for teaching the best yoga class.

As I am writing this I am squirming. I was passionate and confident about my content and that was all true for me at that time. It is only in these past years where I find have no idea or strong opinion about what makes a great yoga class truly great other than the willingness a teacher has to know herself and stand in that to the utmost. Something that must steer clear of public opinion.

I took my friend out for coffee. He looked at me for guidance and I thought about his class. He wanted me to tell him something concrete about his instructions or his sequence or what he could possibly do better. But I couldn’t. I no longer considered myself an authority. I kept saying the same thing. “Are you teaching what lights you up? Are you able to share that from that place?”

I thought about how much my opinions had changed over the years. I thought about the recent workshops I taught. How vulnerable I felt showing up with my stack of poetry books leading a whole weekend without having the security to rely on any system. “We just want you!” they said and how much I questioned if that would be enough. My experience now has taught me that teaching has nothing to do with making students invest in what I think but more to do with finding the language and holding the space for students to invest more in what they think.
How hard it was for me to deem that worthy enough for a weekend workshop but then again. . .

A week ago I received feedback from students who were subscribers to a certain new phenomenon called ClassPass. Despite the perfunctory advice to take the feedback “with a grain of salt,” something no human can ever really do, I took a breath and read the twenty public opinions about my class. (I will preempt this to say that many were lovely but of course my fixation rest solely on the few reviews that stung).
Tracy overcomplicates things. Fair, enough.
Teacher talks through the entire class, I mean the ENTIRE class. This one had a sad face next to it. One star.

By the time I finished reading the reviews I worked out some ego stuff, and picked myself up by the collar. Sharon Salzburg has famously said. “We are not meditating to become better meditators. We are meditating to become better people.” Parker Palmer reminds me that what we teach is not as important as who we are when we teach. Presently, as I drift further away from any brand or prescribed system of yoga or movement preference I am left to do what perhaps any practice has intended all this time – to trust myself more than anything else and go with that.


  1. Elizabeth Ann Bogart says:

    Every student can learn from every teacher, and every teacher can learn from every student. It’s interesting how we develop rigidity in what we expect when we come to mat and how we can sometimes attach our feelings toward our inner work onto the teacher or person. Brian Leaf speaks to that process in Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi.

    In the end, the frustration a person may feel when a teacher doesn’t give a cue in a familiar way, or when another person in class starts snoring in shavasana isn’t really about those people it’s a metaphor for something bigger. What’s my reaction when things are new, and I feel like a beginner again? What’s my reaction when I feel uncomfortable and I have to adapt? Is my ooey gooey yoga feeling dependent on external factors or can I find / create that calm wherever I go?

    To you Tracy, are you teaching what lights you up? I think so.
    Happy Friday, my dear!

  2. Jamie Camche says:

    ONE STAR ??? She has stood in a room with greatness and gave you that review ? Absurd !! You were born to teach.
    You are a writer and it translates to prose when you speak in class. NEVER for one moment doubt yourself. Reviews have nothing to do with your ability or your talent. What do they say about “eyes of the beholder” ? I long for those classes up those rickety steps. Keep your head held high and know you are held in high esteem.

    • tracybleier says:

      Love you girl. Yes. As they say, we can’t pleas’um all. Good thing I realize my work as teacher has nothing to do with pleasing. xo Love you my sweet woman.

  3. steven Bernstein says:

    “For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”
    ― Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

    After taking a couple of thousand yoga classes, about 2-300 of which were yours, I can firmly say that if you don’t like a class today, there will be another tomorrow. It’s only yoga after all. As long as I am moving and it feels good, I could care less what you call it: power, vinyasa, bowspring, hatha, budokan, etc… are all just labels. If you don’t like a particular teacher, don’t take his/her class. Not everyone is going to jibe with everyone else. Trust me, it is the same in my world. We can’t get caught up with what everyone else expects of us, all we can do is follow our hearts and impart what we think is the truth at any given moment, knowing that the truth will change.

    All that being said, you were my favorite. Not because i agreed with everything you taught, but because you taught with passion and accountability. You know your students, their predilections. I sometimes felt you could see me with eyes in the back of your head. You encouraged us, cajoled us, laughed with us, sweated with us, cried with us. You were down on the mat with us.

    PS: Nevine talked throughout class too and I never understood a word she said.

    • tracybleier says:

      Forgive me Stephen for replying to this so many days later. It was a very special thing burgeoning on those wood floors in Connecticut. I miss your seeing you in that front left corner by the wall and how lovely it was to get to know Deb on and off the mat as well. I think of you and your family often and it always warms my heart. Thank you for your response. It’s true. We can’t do the work we love avoiding “not being liked or misunderstood.” We all have our tribe. These months have made me stronger and softer. I hope I get to laugh and sweat with you soon. Blessings always.

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